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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: August ::
Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1455  Friday 20 August 1999.

[1]     From:   D. N. Beauregard <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Aug 1999 16:09:18 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1442 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

[2]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Fri, 20 Aug 1999 09:36:15 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1442 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D. N. Beauregard <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Aug 1999 16:09:18 EDT
Subject: 10.1442 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1442 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

Abigail Quart writes:

>Funny thing happens in the opening of Henry V: Act I, scene i, the
>Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely are having a little talk.

>Cant: (Speaking of the changes in Henry's behavior) Never came a
>reformation in a flood/ With such a heady currance, scouring faults./Nor
>never Hydra-headed willfulness/So soon did lose his seat, and all at
>once,/ As in this King./

>Ely: We are blessed in the change.

>Cant: Hear him but reason in his divinity,/ And all-admiring with an
>inward wish/ You would desire the King were made a prelate.

>So few lines, yet Shakespeare uses them to poetically move the English
>Reformation back to Henry V. Now the poetically Protestant prelate-King
>Henry can proceed to give the Catholic French a real beating.

The reference to King Henry's "reformation," as Quart points out, is to
personal reformation, not to the Protestant Reformation, except possibly
by way of metaphor. However, in the opening scene, there is a more
substantial reference to Protestant theology on the part of the
Archbishop of Canterbury, viz., "miracles are past" (1.1.68). Still, I
must say that two slight theological allusions do not constitute much
evidence of Shakespeare characterizing King Henry as a Protestant
monarch, something that would be anachronistic anyway.

The evidence seems really on the other side. King Henry later speaks
these lines: "Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay/ Who twice a day
their withered hands hold up/ Toward heaven, to pardon blood; and I have
built/ Two chantries, where the sad and solemn priests/ Sing still for
Richard's soul.  More will I do;/ Though all that I do is nothing
worth,/ Since that my penitence comes after all,/ Imploring pardon"
(4.1.296-303). This is obviously not Henry VIII destroying monasteries
and chantries, which offered prayers for the dead, a practice not in
keeping with English Reformed theology. Again, Bardolph is condemned to
hang for having stolen a "pax" (3.6.39-45), i.e., either a small metal
disk with the crucifix stamped on it, kissed by the priest during Mass,
or a "pix," a vessel containing a consecrated host. These are two
substantial references. It would seem clear, then, that Shakespeare is
characterizing Henry V as a medieval Catholic king, not a Protestant
one.

D. N. Beauregard

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Fri, 20 Aug 1999 09:36:15 GMT
Subject: 10.1442 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1442 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

In all the controversy over Shakespeare's possible (Roman) Catholicism
there seems to me all too often a determination to set up over-simple
binarisms that do not correspond to the complexities that followed from
allegiance to a particular sect in England in the Early Modern period.

I am just reading through some of Donne's Sermons, and found this: 'For
all this separation, Christ Jesus is amongst us all, and in his time,
will break downe this wall too, these differences amongst Christians,
and make us all glad of that name, the name of Christians, without
affecting in our selves, or inflicting upon others, other names of envy
and subdivision' (Sermons Vol 2. No 3.  pp.111-2) (This in a sermon
which in other respects recalls Satire III, with its meditation on the
relationship between sects, authority and the individual.)

It's not an uncharacteristic note - and not surprising, perhaps, from
one who changed allegiance with considerable difficulty.  It certainly
does not inhibit Donne from criticism of Roman doctrine, or censure of
the Anabaptists.  But what it might at least suggest is confirmation of
the work of Dunphy and Haigh - that allegiance was complicated, and
perhaps that to find that Shakespeare was, or might have been a
'Catholic' at one point in his life is not necessarily to pigeon-hole
him securely.  (Ben Jonson, after all, moved between allegiances during
his life time.)

David Lindley
School of English
University of Leeds
 

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